POLITICAL parties are prone to cliche and hyperbole. OK, OK – I’ll admit it’s the international currency of political campaigning.

Candidates sell themselves as “proven fighters” and “local champions”. Every party considers their own manifesto the most “ambitious” and “bold” prospectus for change. And, as for the vote itself, well take your pick from “historic”, “vital” or even “the most important in our lifetime”, with limitless potential to “seize the opportunity” and change the political landscape.

Sometimes elections fail to live up to their own hype. Consider last year’s frustrating General Election. It was a last roll of the dice to “Stop Brexit”, with five political parties across the UK putting that message front and centre of their campaigns, and Labour left rueing their misjudgement to take no position whatsoever on the biggest political issue of the day.

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The UK has since left the EU and the default position is that, come Hogmanay, we crash out under what were previously deemed unconscionable No-Deal conditions.

Not for want of trying by the SNP, the Stop Brexit slogan has little to show for itself. It did, however, work in driving people to the polling stations in their droves. Furthermore, opinion polls show that voters UK-wide have not reconciled themselves to the fact we’re out of Europe.

In Scotland’s case, resentment of constitutional arrangements which sideline our interests grows sharper. Brexit continues to be an event thrust upon us, without our consent.

The Conservatives now foolishly seek to clip the wings of our national parliament, despite the established place of Holyrood in Scottish public life.

There’s something interesting going on right now in the Scottish psyche. All of us know formerly diehard Unionists who, for one reason or the other, are now singing a very different tune.

In spite of the helplessness felt by a majority of Scots in the wake of the vote, the 2019 General Election may indeed prove in time to have been the most important in our lives, representing the moment the UK finally became unstuck.

The immediate aftermath felt flat, but Scotland is set on a very different future and it becomes hard to think of a force strong enough to pull us back into a truly “United” Kingdom. It’s near impossible to think of an effective Unionist strategy which achieves that before next May’s Scottish Parliament elections.

Meanwhile the polls look good for the SNP and its leadership.

Crucially, sustained majority support for independence allows the party to fight the 2021 election on a clear promise of an independence referendum. Nothing is more effective than putting your raison d’etre front and centre. That will prove the SNP’s biggest asset on May 6 next year.

For the SNP, it’s not hyperbole to say that the next Holyrood election is the most important ever. It’s crucial, it’s now or never, it’s make or break.

Nicola Sturgeon has navigated the past few turbulent years deftly. From hereon half the battle will be staying the course, maintaining those enviable poll ratings and urging the impatient to ca’ canny.

Cracks are already showing in the Unionist hardline denial of Scotland’s right to choose.

Michael Gove, a man with the Prime Minister’s ear on all things Scottish, was in panic mode last week and despatched his boss northwards to quell the increasingly mutinous Scots.

Interviewed by the BBC this week, Gove was asked bluntly and repeatedly whether Westminster would grant Scotland a referendum if the SNP wins next May. He conspicuously didn’t say no. They know that denying a vote is a temporary position, but a pro-independence majority next year means they will have to capitulate.

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UNTIL very recently I ran the SNP’s press office at Holyrood. Part of that job is trying to second guess your opponents. I was apprehensive about 2021. Our biggest problem ahead of that election was how effective an obvious Tory strategy might have proven.

Firstly they’d have claimed the tired old SNP are failing on public services, and sought to maximise on perceived weariness of a party in government for 14 years.

Secondly, they’d have gone for Nicola Sturgeon on trust, cynically banking on the fallout from the Alex Salmond trial tarnishing her brand.

Thirdly, they’d have motivated their core by saying “No to indyref2” and tapping into a frustration with constitutional politics.

Now I’m not saying for a second this barrage of negativity would have made for a winning campaign, but it might have denied Sturgeon the majority she needs.

But if independence is the SNP’s biggest asset for next year, the impotence of these Tory attack lines is surely the second. They fall down on all three counts.

Our public services have taken the strain and coped well during the coronavirus pandemic. How they have been managed by governments across the UK has opened up an enormous chasm in trust. The consensus is that it is Sturgeon and the SNP that people want to see running public services in Scotland.

Just 13 months ago, Jackson Carlaw (before he was Scottish Tory leader AND former Scottish Tory leader) made the Alex Salmond trial the centrepiece of his speech to Tory conference, calling it a “train coming down the track” to squish Nicola Sturgeon. The Tory bloodlust to topple a female First Minister for the actions or otherwise of her male predecessor was always a despicably crass strategy. With the former FM cleared of all charges, it is now completely inert.

That leaves just one weapon in the Tory armoury: “No to indyref2.” It’s now the minority position and there’s a decreasing share of the Unionist voting pie to share between the anti-independence parties.

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It’s cliche but not hyperbole to state that the course is set fair for the SNP and the independence movement nine months out from the Holyrood elections, which will be the launchpad for independence and will determine Scotland’s future. For Unionists, the nationalist bubble will prove hard to burst.

But the only poll that matters is the one on election day. It’s the most hackneyed political phrase of them all.

But it’s also the truest.